Week 4

I took the CITI course almost two years ago, but I went back and took some tests to refresh my memory. I did re-learn some thins through the course, but by and large I didn’t relate much in terms of my own experiences and understandings. I don’t have much personal experience with ethics and ethical dilemmas (which I would say is a good thing?) so I wasn’t able to fully relate to the work. That being said, I did gain a deeper and better understanding of potential ethical issues in general.

After reading the first article about the VCU study with twins, I can see a few ethical implications. Like the father said, it could be seen as an invasion of privacy for everyone who is involved whether its tangentially or not. This brings up the issue of confidentiality and informed consent. Can someone consent when they don’t even know they’re being studied? Their information should be kept confidential, even though they aren’t directly involved, right?

There was also the issue of IRB regulations. While they do have a set standard of regulations, there is still some room for interpretation between boards. But is requiring the boards to screen more really going to help research, or simply bog down researchers with more administrative tasks? There comes a point when there is too much.

I think that, at times, researchers do come across difficult decisions that cannot be easily solved. Promising compensation for participation could be seen as coercion or undermining informed consent. When researching children, it’s hard to make sure you aren’t overstepping any boundaries with the parents of the kids. These types of situations and more are difficult to traverse, and that is what the IRB is for. In murkier cases, researchers should defer back to the IRB to make sure their decisions are ethically sound. While we would like to avoid too much administrative tasks in order to conduct research, there’s no denying that the safety of the subjects comes first. There should be more regulations in place in order to make research standards clearer and easier to follow.

3 thoughts on “Week 4”

  1. You’re correct that there’s still room for interpretation between boards, so a study that’s approved by VCU might not get approved elsewhere and vice versa. The version of that with which I’m most familiar (and also relates to the book Giny references) is between the VCU IRB about 15-20 years ago and the present day. I don’t know the history of IRBs in detail, so I can’t comment on Schrag’s assertion that biomedical researchers and bioethicists excluded social scientists from decision-making, but the VCU IRB used to be one board on which social scientists were underrepresented. Social scientists did not have much power over the decision-making process. So, for example, a sociological researcher would be required to submit a protocol when proposing to do secondary data analysis on an existing dataset like GSS that contained no personal identifiers and was publicly available. More recently, social scientists have gained representation , and the board is now split into four panels for reviews. I think at least one of these is devoted to social science research. Oh, and by the way, researchers now do not have to undergo IRB review for secondary data analysis of publicly available de-identified data such as GSS.

  2. You make a good point about IRBs having different interpretations. Since my background isn’t in sociology, I learn a lot from reading everyone perspectives. Dr. Honnold’s point about IRBs having representation from different disciplines isn’t one that I’d considered before.

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